Independence is usually the most compelling factor for pursuing and starting a freelance business. Beyond the expectations of meeting with clients, you have the freedom to organize your day however you desire.
Don't just stick to what others will suggest, the regular 9-5 schedule, freelancing is your opportunity to think about how you're most effective.
It turns out there are three categories of people: morning people, night owls, and afternoon people. With that in mind, think about how you can purposely design your day to be most effective.
Start your day off right by finding things you can accomplish early—you’ll feel more energized to tackle bigger things later.
Dedicate focused time and work on consistently being able to maintain your focus, improvements happen over time.
Create a list of items you want to achieve in the day, make an agreement with yourself that you’re going to accomplish that list. If you can’t, ask yourself why.
Slide your phone out of arms reach, snooze those notifications, close those 300 browser tabs, and focus on getting out a good chunk of work.
If you’re working from home, keep your space clean, simple, and organized. It's good to have a dedicated space where you’re not distracted by your environment.
It's difficult to find a definitive answer on what your freelancing rate should be because it depends on you and your business. Not the answer you were looking for, so let's break down a few ways to approach pricing—the foundation being hourly rates.
Working the full 2,080 work hours in a year is not feasible for a freelancer. You need vacation time to not burn out and the ability to manage slower times financially. And because not every hour of your workday is billable, there are only about 1,280 billable hours per year for a freelancer. Start with this and reflect on your first year or two of freelancing and adjust if needed.
The easiest way to calculate your hourly rate is to take a salary you would expect to make full-time, add any business expenses, then divide by the 1,280 billable hours. For example, if you would expect to make $120,000 per year in a full-time position and it costs $10,000 a year to run your business, you would need to charge at least $100 per hour.
It's important to feel as though you’re being fairly compensated for your work, if your rates are too low, you won’t take it as seriously. If you set your rates right, you’ll need to work harder to earn that money—better for you and your client.
Use variable pricing based on the impact and value you’re bringing to your client. If you’re freelancing for Google, the expected impact and value of your work is greater than it might be for a local business, so adjust your rates to scale. You can scale your rates to leave space to take on projects you’re excited about but might not have enough budget.
It can be tough to talk about money with a client, you’re afraid of asking for too much, or afraid of asking for too little and feeling undervalued. Remember, you’re going to work hard to bring value to someone’s business and should be fairly compensated for that value.
Once you’ve got a general idea of what your client is looking for, it's important to discuss pricing.
Begin by asking them what they’re hoping to achieve from this project, this can give you insight into the impact and value the project will have on their business.
Ask them how much they’re willing to invest in the project. It's typically best for your client to give you an idea first. If they don’t have a budget, give them an estimated range. If their budget is too low, share your estimated range. If they’re sticking to their number, you need to decide if you need the work or if your time is better spent on something else.
Ask what they’re hoping to achieve from the project.
Ask them what their budget is for the project.
If their budget is in your range, tell them you’ll work on putting together a proposal.
If their budget is too low, give it another shot, share your estimate and the value you’re bringing.
If they don’t know their budget, tell them a rough estimate.
Having wrapped up a great client, the last thing you want is to spend the next couple weeks, or months, sitting on your couch waiting for work to fall onto your lap. You need to constantly work on ways to grow your business—this will keep freelancing sustainable and give you opportunities to work with exciting clients.
There are two categories of marketing and sales: outbound and inbound. Outbound focuses on reaching out to your potential clients through emails, LinkedIn messages, phone calls, etc. Inbound is focused on creating opportunities for clients to reach out to you. Inbound is the preferred method for freelancers as it allows you to passively invest your time.
Rather than just following boring best practices that everyone else is droning on about, think about how you can leverage your unique skills. How would you, with your skillset, approach marketing and selling your services differently? For example, while a freelance designer might not be the best salesperson, they can leverage their design skills to create unique content that clients are drawn to.
It's not the work itself that’s the most stressful part for freelancers, it's running the business. Building and maintaining your client relationships is key to running a successful freelance business.
A client relationship management (CRM) tool is not just for sales and marketing teams, its a great way to track and manage your client communications. You can see if people are reading your emails, track previous conversations, and keep useful notes on each of your clients. Referencing personal details about your clients can go a long way in crafting a positive relationship.
Referrals are one of the most effective ways to grow your business. A referral from another happy client puts you at a great start with building a professional and trusting relationship.
Make sure you’re investing in maintaining previous client relationships so that you’re always top of mind when someone asks them for a referral.
There’s a lot more to emails than clicking send. Read the first draft of your emails for any mistakes, you don’t want to look unprofessional. Write clear calls to action on what you want your client to do next. Expect people to scan your messages, so make it easier to read using headings, lists, and bolded items.
One of the biggest mistakes people make with emails? Not following up. If someone hasn’t responded to you, follow up within a few days or a week later to give them another opportunity to respond. People often forget and appreciate that reminder.
I’ve completed the latest version of the project. Please spend some time reviewing it and leave any comments you might have.
Feedback I’m looking for:
1. Do you feel that we’ve accurately captured the message?
2. Are the points clear enough and are there any additional ones needed?
3. Do you think the summary section is clear enough?
Thanks for taking the time to look at this! Once I’ve got your feedback we can book another meeting to check-in on a more complete version.
The freelance life sounds ideal, especially from outside, but it's not always perfect. You’re often alone without people to support you as you would in the workplace. Do not feel bad about things not going perfectly, you’re far from alone.
Make sure that you’re investing in your health and happiness, it will make freelancing more sustainable and you’ll produce better work in the end.
As a freelancer, you’re not as alone as you think you are. Reading that probably isn’t going to make it easier, so connect with others who are also navigating the freelance life. Learn from each other’s mistakes and celebrate your successes. Don’t be afraid to admit things aren’t going smoothly, many people are struggling with the same things you’re stressing about. Be honest with the people in your network.
If you don’t know many people, look out for local meet-ups or events. As a freelancer, its easy to get in a rut of not putting yourself out there, so put some effort in and you’ll get back into the groove. You can find great Slack or Facebook groups online for different types of freelancers.
Reach out and plan work sessions with other freelancers. Pick a new location or work from each other’s homes. Start the day talking about what you want to get done and hold each other accountable. Take a break, grab lunch, and wrap up the day with plans to do it again. Find some people to do this consistently with.
When times are slower, or you need a break from a certain type of work, consider some passion projects—fun projects that challenge your creativity and help you learn new skills. Take workshops, courses, and find useful resources to help your project. You’ll feel energized by learning new skills and have a project that you can use to showcase yourself.
Your overbearing mom had it right—you need to take care of yourself more than ever as a freelancer. You don’t have the typical cues to grab lunch or wrap up your day. Make sure you’re eating properly and exercising. Break up your day with a walk, run, or bike ride. Exercise can help clear your head, get endorphins going, and bring on new ideas.
As a business, it's great to have different types of income streams. They help when times are slower, push you to reach higher revenue goals, and bring variety to your week.
The best examples are going to be ones that compliment you and what you’re good at. There’s a possibility somewhere down the line that one of these alternative sources or passions side projects turns into your primary income source.
Remember not to spread yourself too thin, pick things that you can sustainable do well. Start small and expand over time.
Check out these great listens for some insights and ideas into growing your freelance business.
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